Necessity is Still the Mother of Invention- Improvisation is the Mother-in-Law

1Word on the street is that Jeep is going to offer us a brand new Wrangler-based pickup truck in 2019, fulfilling an urgent longing that I can’t say I was even aware of. The new Jeep Wrangler JT will all but cease a long-standing ritual of Jeep owners; believing that the only thing keeping their beloved Jeeps from being a full-fledged pickup truck is a bundle of ratchet straps and some creativity.

Obviously the fine folks at Fiat/Chrysler have invested significant energy into determining the marketplace to be properly aligned with the prospect of a four wheel drive, go-anywhere utility vehicle that also enables the driver to haul a mound of camping gear to the mountains or masses of shopping bags home from the mall, depending on their personal inclination. I can only assume that, in the divine blissful haze of my own Jeep ownership, I hadn’t realized that we weren’t doing better than alright with our current Jeeps, minus a truck bed.

Many a times I have taken off to the local home improvement store in the old Jeep with no concern as to where the 2 x 4’s, bags of quikrete and sacks of red cedar mulch will ride. Jeeps have been hauling incredible payloads since the early 1940’s. I’m pretty sure that some gardening supplies aren’t going to derail the train. Sure, sheets of plywood or panelling tend to push the envelope of what is possible or shrewd; but that’s when you have to raise your cargo loading game to the next level. I tend to think of a gutsy WWII medic who was presented with the probability of carrying a wounded soldier strapped to an eight foot stretcher on his runt of a Willys/Jeep. He didn’t bother looking for reasons he couldn’t do it… He found ways he could. In minutes, that Jeep was catching air with the gurney strapped to whatever flat area was not already occupied. With said soldier grateful to be alive, although not necessarily happy at the time.

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In the grand scheme of things, hauling a flat of petunias or a weekend’s supply of camping gear to the nearest woods pales in comparison to the notion of carting an injured soldier off of the battlefield. However, regardless of how the Jeeps utilitarian abilities are displayed, they are certainly worthy of being celebrated, or maybe even exploited – within the confines of local laws and ordinances, of course.

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The residents of Quindio, Columbia have initiated an annual celebration of Jeeps enduring ability to defy the bounds of what is possible by holding a giant colorful parade featuring “Yipaos”, which literally means ‘loaded Jeep’. These basically stock Jeeps and Willys vehicles are decorated, adorned and otherwise encumbered with every sort of object one can imagine. Religious trinkets, misplaced home appliances and pieces of societal refuse are piled precariously high atop each eighty-inch wheelbase for a rolling spectacle that is just as long as it is tall. Folks, that is a full-scale acoustic guitar at Jesus’ right hand. Not a ukele…a real guitar. It has not been properly tuned but is a spectacle nonetheless.

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One doesn’t have to travel half-way around the world or skirt the equator to find Jeeps being put to a daily test of practicality. Jeeps are often witnessed across the country pulling boats & jetskis, landscaping trailers or loaded to the rollbars with everything from musicians gear to firewood . A reporter during World War II once wrote that his Jeep “did everything. It went everywhere. Was faithful as a dog, as strong as a mule, and as agile as a goat. It constantly carried twice what it was designed for and still kept going”. That is a pretty sparkling description of a Jeep and one inline with my past experiences. I can only imagine if the Jeep had a truck bed what more could he have said?

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So, if our esteemed off-road mainstay is truly about to be gifted from Jeep’s Toledo factory with a legitimate truck bed, we may have to alter our perceptions of what is possible. We have always done truck-like things without a truck. Imagine the possibilites with a diesel engine, 8-speed automatic and lockers front & rear! I may just start building my own yipao now so I can just load it in the back. OlllllllO

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Photo Credit: JLWranglerForums.com

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October 2017 Monthly Update

Spartan Series Bumpers

The Rugged Ridge Spartan Series Bumpers gives your Jeep a classic look without the extra weight and high price tag. The one-piece design is made from plate steel that gives your a precise fit and high quality experience. Each bumper includes a stand-alone winch plate as the central backbone for the bumper and includes D-shackle mounts and a tubular overrider to complete the package (D-rings not included). The Spartan Front Bumper is a direct bolt-on replacement for 2007-2018 Wrangler JK models and includes all the necessary hardware for a worry-free installation. The Spartan even utilizes the factory JK fog lights for a finished look without any extra expense.

Part Number Description Price
11548.03 Spartan Front Bumper, Standard Ends, W/O Overrider, 07-18 Wrangler JK $399.99
11548.02 Spartan Front Bumper, Standard Ends, With Overrider, 07-18 Wrangler JK $466.99
11548.01 Spartan Front Bumper, High Clearance Ends, With Overrider, 07-18 JK $533.99
11548.04 Spartan Front Bumper, Overrider $106.99

XHD Steel Corner Guards

The XHD Steel Corner Guards protects one of your most vulnerable areas on your JK while hitting the trails. Built from super strong 3mm thick steel plate to withstand any hazard on the trails.

Part Number Description Price
11615.20 XHD Corner Guard, Rear, 4-Door, 07-18 Jeep Wrangler JK $266.99
11615.21 XHD Corner Guard, Rear, 2-Door, 07-18 Jeep Wrangler JK $266.99

Hey! You!! What’s Your Favorite Car???

1Ask your average 30-something guy at the neighborhood cookout what his favorite car is and the answer you receive in return is likely to change like the weather. There’s always the diehard Porsche and Ferrari faithful, not to mention the fellas whose dreams have no credit limit who will chide in with the latest Bugatti or McLaren model. If your subject has seen Gone in 60 Seconds within the past weeks, he may likely declare a 1967 Ford Shelby GT500 as his clear & uncontested choice. I really dug ‘Eleanor’ too in that movie and I don’t even like Mustangs! After spending a weekend with the ‘ol feet up watching Lemans coverage, I got myself a case of the gimmies for a C7 Corvette-hold the Racing Yellow paint, please.

When it comes to a Jeep guy/gal, their favorite car is likely going to be whatever Jeep model they are driving, or possibly one they aspire to buy. We can still dream of owning that random supercar or even a classic muscle car that spends the better part of its existence holding up a micro-fiber dust cover in the garage. The Jeep still has to be our favorite as it’s the one we love to drive around in, get dirty in and cherish so deeply that most owners even try to give theirs a name, like it’s a member of the family.

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You will soon find out that a Jeep is not even considered a car by most people, so answering with ‘Jeep’ when asked what is your favorite car is almost like dodging the actual question. Like when asked your favorite breed of dog. If you reply ‘Hot Dog’, you might get a soft chuckle but secretly your surveyor is pondering the possibility that you may have been dropped at some point and are more than likely ill-equipped to answer the question.

So what if there was a car out there for those who are content with having a Jeep as their favorite car; for those who despite having no qualms about the fact that a Jeep is not really a car, would love to have an answer for those times when the question may arise? May I present to you the 1959 Desoto Firesweep – your NEW favorite car… It’s a classic car so cool that it has a Jeep on the dash!

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While the Desoto has little or nothing to do with the Willy’s/ Jeep, it seems undeniable that the molded plastic housing mounted in the dash to store the speaker and windshield defroster bits possesses the same iconic characteristics as the beloved Jeep CJ grille. From the seven vertical slats to the round headlight openings that impede onto the outboard slats; this is clearly more than coincidental. Someone in Chrysler design studios must have had a secret fondness for the venerable Jeep.

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If I am going to compromise my core principles and engage in the practice of driving a car that ISN’T a Jeep, it might as well have the face of a Jeep across the dash reminding me with a faithful ever presence of where I would rather be. Outside of the stylized tail light fins and the push-button transmission, it’s positively the strongest selling point that Desoto had to offer.

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Desoto used the subtle visual ode to the Willys/Jeep in both the Firesweep and the Adventurer model, but never chose to market it to it’s stylish consumers. This, a decision I could find single-handedly to blame for the companies eventual demise in 1961. Had they only opted to advertise with a catchy little slogan like “ Desoto Firesweep- The Car for Those Times You Can’t Drive Your Jeep”.,.things could have been som much different. So, what’s your favorite car now?? OlllllllO

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Long Before our Beloved All-Terrains, there was the Martin Tire

It’s been said that necessity is the mother of invention. While it is true that some absolutely remarkable discoveries have been spawned in man’s quest to create his own personal nirvana, it seems as though humans, as a race in large, are more likely to strike oil while digging a well or installing our own sprinklers than when we are searching for crude. Case in point, one of the greatest inventions in the history of this planet, or any other, is the wheel; round, well-centered, perfect. Man’s pursuit to take the work out of forming simple clay pottery inadvertently developed into the single most important advancement in transportation to date.

Photo Credit: EarlyAviators.com

Photo Credit: EarlyAviators.com

In the prosperity-deprived days of the 1930’s, James V. Martin, an avid aviator, inventor and general enthusiast of everything on wheels was hard at work trying to revolutionize the future of transportation in any way he could, especially the automobile industry; with notable advancements to his credit in both 3 and 4-wheel automobiles. Martin, a highly intelligent Harvard graduate who held numerous patents in the development and manufacturing of small aircraft, had already caused quite a stir in the aeronautical community a decade before.

In the mid 1920’s, he filed suit against the US government and the Association of Aeronautical Manufacturers claiming a vast conspiracy to monopolize the entire industry. Since Martin possessed crucial technology patents and controlled valuable intellectual property, he saw such an internal conspiracy as a direct attack on his own profitability and personal success. In support of these claims, evidence was presented that Martin had submitted a prototype for a large bomber to the U.S. Air Service for testing, named the ‘Barling Bomber’. When the craft failed to perform up to the governments standards, the aircraft was promptly destroyed by means of blasting it to pieces with an all-out machine gun assault rather than returning it to Martin with documented testing results- a misfortune that infuriated the inventor and further concreted his suspicions of favoritism.

2By the late 1920’s, James Martin had begun to explore ways that the technologies and concepts he had applied in the field of airplanes might translate to a simple and commonplace road car. One of the first applications was the use of rubber para-cords as a means of providing spring tension and shock absorption to a vehicles suspension. The patent declared clearly that the purpose of this invention was to simplify the task of absorbing road vibration using a new and novel combination- one that was far removed from the normal hydraulic shock absorbers of the day. The ‘rubber bands’ could be routinely replaced at normal intervals and at an extremely low cost. This notion was exercised and applied in a micro-car called the 1928 Martin Dart that, by many accounts, was poised to shift the public’s perspective on what new cart ownership would entail. The tiny Dart was projected to be sold largely via mail order, shipped in a crate that would be repurposed as a parking shelter and sold to the American consumer for a measly $200; well below the average selling price of the day. Unfortunately, the Dart never found widespread acceptance as a production car. Despite his revolutionary shock absorber technology not finding much traction in the market, Martin was not about to quit. He just needed to get back to the drawing board and reinvent the wheel.

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Martin began using the elasticity, cushioning and compression characteristics of rubber and implementing it into a wheel and tire assembly that would make the conventional pneumatic tire virtually obsolete. An early evolution of this design was found in his “Elastic Tire” in 1931- a name that clearly conveys that Martin was primarily focused on his craft and not so much on the marketing aspects; after all, great ideas usually sell themselves.

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Further development of the theory that rubber integrated into a rim assembly could prove to revolutionize the tire industry was displayed in generation after generation of models. The “Aero & Auto Tire” in 1933, followed by the “Safety Tire” in ’38, “Easy Riding Tire” and several other iterations in the years to follow. It was when the newfangled yet officially patented “Martin Tire” was bolted to a trusty WWII-era Willys Jeep that James Martin had his best opportunity to impress the world with his invention. Certainly if the Martin Tire could stand up to the rigors involved in off-road driving, Martins skeptics might become his greatest supporters. The Martin Tire featured a wheel assembly that was 6 pounds lighter than a comparable steel rim and tire assembly and delivering a graduated braking and torque action that proved to be beneficial in unstable terrain. And the way the Martin Tire smoothed out the rough stuff was truly something to behold. The Willys could finally be utilized in a manner closer to its potential. Check it out for yourself! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQ05RbGa0zM

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It is pretty clear when watching the video of testing of the Martin Tire that James Vernon Martin was likely onto something. For reasons unknown, the Martin Tire faded slowly into obscurity with the possible benefits it offered never fully realized. Certainly todays push to develop tires that can run despite losing air pressure lends heavily towards similar design concepts that Martin was pioneering. I can’t help but credit him, at least partially, for another current styling trend but I’ll let you be the judge. OlllllllO

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“Half Safe” but Completely Crazy

“Crazy” is, without a doubt, one of the most complex words in the English language. While its meaning is somewhat consistent, I find that its use as a compliment or as a condemnation is often only determined by whether or not there is a smile on the face of the person that is calling you crazy. So it is possible to be crazy but in a good way, right?

More often than not, a person who is described as crazy has set themselves apart from society by abstaining from normal accepted behavior. Meet Frederick ‘Ben’ Carlin- born in Western Australia in 1912 and who, on more than one occasion, has established himself as one of the craziest adventurers to have ever left the paved roads behind. The fact that he chose to pursue his preposterous dreams in a crazy contraption based on a WWII Ford GPA “Seep” makes him more of a hero, in my opinion, than a loon but you can be the judge.

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As an engineer in the Indian Army Corp of Engineers in World War II, Carlin observed an amphibious GPA vehicle while doing a routine inspection and commented to a fellow coworker that the vehicle would be a viable candidate to successfully circumnavigate the globe in. The intense laughter that erupted after his brash statement only reinforced his determination to prove that it could be done.

At the close of the Second World War, Carlin was able to acquire a surplus GPA for a measly $901 at auction and the process of adapting, modifying and equipping the chassis for such a monumental trek began. The body was extended by several feet to accommodate a larger fuel tank as well as an enclosed cabin scabbed on to the boat-like body. Much like Noah building the ark, Carlin was labelled as a buffoon- several sandwiches short of a picnic basket. Even his attempts to secure a sponsorship from Ford Motor Company, the manufacturer of the GPA, were met with skepticism and negativity. Ford seemed convinced that only a crazy person would take their amphibious vehicle into such treacherous waters.

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Actually, only two crazy people would. Carlin enlisted the help of his wife Elinore to accompany him on his ill-advised adventure. By the spring of 1948, the couple was seemingly ready to set sail in a vehicle that, by all appearances, was not fit to float, much less sail, across the ocean. It was aptly given the name Half Safe – a tongue-in-cheek reference taken from a deodorant advertisement that joked about the risks involved with wearing a lesser brand of under-arm protection. Somehow treading water in the middle of the shark-infested waters of the Atlantic Ocean seemed as comical a notion to Ben Carlin.

As with most innovators and pioneers, success was not found on the first attempt nor, for that matter, the second or third one. A handful of attempts in 1948 were plagued by mechanical failures of near-catastrophic proportions, including an exhaust system breakdown that had the confined cabin of the Half Safe vessel filling with lethal carbon monoxide gases, causing the trip to be quickly aborted and the boat returned to shore for repairs; each failure bringing more delays and exhausting more funds.

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Finally, on July 19th of 1950, Carlin and his trusting bride set out from Halifax, Nova Scotia with enough food, fuel and provisions on board to tide them over for a little over 30 days. While the Fords fuel tank had been modified to increase the capacity to 200 gallons, Carlin had to transport extra containers of fuel ; keeping them secured to a towline that was being drug behind the vehicle while at sea. Any time a refueling was needed, the anchor was dropped to interrupt forward progress and the floating reserve tanks would be reeled up next to the boat so that fuel could be siphoned into the primary tanks. This process proved to be challenging, exhausting and dangerous as the likelihood of the heavy tanks battering the thin metal hull of the vessel threatened to bring the entire trip to a sinking, gurgling halt. Nonetheless, Carlin persevered and eventually arrived at the choppy shores of the Azores Islands. From there, the trip carried them northward on wheels into Europe, where cabin temperatures often climbed above 150 degrees without the coolness of the seas waters to tame the heat. This forced the duo to perform most of their driving at night when conditions were considerably less harsh.

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Well into the second half of the journey, Elinore became convinced that this expedition might indeed be her last; overcome with exhaustion, sea sickness and oddly rational thoughts, she chose to abandon the mission as well as her husband while in Carlin’s homeland of Australia, while the pair was on a fund-raising tour in 1956.

Ben Carlin pressed onward, accompanied by anyone who could be convinced that this was a sane scheme. At first, a fellow Australian joined him for a period of 5 months before he was replaced by an American writer who worked for a Japanese newspaper. The journalist stayed with Carlin from early 1957 until Half Safe rolled into Anchorage, Alaska in late 1957. The writer profiled many of his Half Safe experiences in a book entitled, “Once a Fool: From Tokyo to Alaska by Amphibious Jeep”. If doing this for 6 months makes you a fool, what might 8 years make you? Certainly too tired to write a book with such a catchy title.

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In all, Carlin’s incredible journey took a total of 7 years and 10 months to complete, arriving in Montreal in May 1958, unbelievably having covered 38,987 miles over land and another 11,000 at sea. While Carlin had dreamed that this impossible venture crossing 38 countries would bring him untold riches and unrivaled popularity, the truth is that his accomplishment did more to ruin him both financially and romantically than it did to improve his position. The fact that his tale is rarely even told only adds to the misfortune. Fortunately, the Half Safe was acquired by Carlin’s childhood grammar school where it is displayed proudly for anyone who can forego their perceptions of what is truly attainable long enough to believe what you can do when you set your mind to it. To this day, no one else has managed to circumnavigate the world in one single vehicle. I can’t imagine anyone even trying…you’d have to be crazy.   OlllllllO2106b4ca367891a36776fcdb10f2edd9

First a Jeep, Then a Truck

It seems like forever and a day that we have been waiting for the new Jeep Wrangler JL to rid itself of the character- disguising camo and expose the Jeep faithful to what has been hiding beneath. Honestly, it’s like trying to pick out your prom date when all the girls are wrapped in tarps. We’ve been baited along with the promise of the new Wrangler JL model and then diabolically teased of a truck to be built on the same platform and delivered to us in the year to follow. It’s hard to digest that this wait may finally be winding up.  

Photo Credit: JL Wrangler Forums

Photo Credit: JL Wrangler Forums

  You may ask “Why all the fuss?”. It’s not like we haven’t been treated to a Jeep truck before and you would have a valid point. I believe the upcoming Wrangler JT pickup will be different though. In the past, Jeep has offered quite a few trucks in their lineup, each one special in their own distinct ways but, for the most part, they were always trucks first and Jeeps secondly.

What I mean by that is, with the exception of the 81-86 CJ-8 Scramblers, Jeep trucks have always segregated themselves from the true Jeep four-wheel drive, short wheelbase off-roader that embodies all of the elements that define the Jeep name. The CJ-8 was essentially a CJ-7 lengthened with a small truck bed in the back; a feature that more than made up for in looks what it might have lacked in practicality.

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The very first origins in the evolution of the Jeep truck would date all the way back to 1946, when Willys-Overland offered a Jeep pickup that shared its exterior countenance with the Willys Station wagons of the day. The high hood, flat-topped fenders and buglike headlights gave indication that the two were loosely related but yet independent at the core.

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One progression of the Jeep truck is the ultra-unique FCs, or Forward Control trucks. Introduced in the mid-50’s, the FC-150 defied easy explanation. With it’s odd cab-over-engine design and “big rig”styling, the FC models are usually presumed to be anything but a Jeep. The forward control models are highly sought by collectors due to their bizarre appearance and a distinctly wonderful driving experience . With a monstrous steering wheel that sits horizontal in front of you and no hood in front of the windshield, it’s hard to not feel like you’re wheeling a semi down the interstate trying to get a load up to Dubuque by sundown. It’s even harder to hide the smile the FC puts on your face.

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One of the most underated and least seen of the Jeep trucks are the Gladiator and J-Series models that were manufactured for an astounding quarter century, beginning in 1963. While other truck manufacturers toyed with rather swank styling cues that felt need to change every few years, Kaiser-Jeep found a solid and simple design that stood the test of time; making the J-Series truck almost instantly identifiable regardless of it’s vintage.

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I think what I like most about the Gladiator and J-Series trucks is that, in all their simplicity, they just look tough. I would go so far as to say that if Chuck Norris was going into battle in a new big screen blockbuster, maybe Missing In Action 9, he could very easily drive one of these. The Kaiser M715 is, in fact, the military version of the Gladiator and it literally looks like it’s coming to save the world and lay under tread anyone who tries to stop it. It’s so excessively packed with unbridled masculinity, it might even cause Chuck Norris to second-guess his level of adequate manliness to man the controls. No vanity mirrors on the back of sunvisors, if even so equipped; just brawn under the hood and bulges on the bedsides. A seriously hard act to follow.

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But follow Jeep did…with the CJ-8 Scrambler in 1981. For the first time, traditional Jeep owners were given their beloved Jeep fitted with the added utility of a short truck bed on a wheelbase 10-inches longer than the CJ-7, to boot. While such an offering did not evolve the new CJ into a formidable cargo hauler, it did undoubtedly help solidy the Jeep CJ’s overall position as America’s favorite off-road vehicle and tested the waters for what interest might exist for another Jeep truck.

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In 1986, Jeep delivered to market a brand new pickup based on the wildly succesful Cherokee XJ utility wagon. The Jeep Comance (MJ) was built using the same mechanical componenets, drivetrain and exterior styling as the Cherokee but with the choice of either a 6 or 7 foot truck bed. The truck was failry well accepted in the marketplace but always had a clearly defined persona separate from it’s close kin, the CJ/ Wrangler. After seven years of production, Chrysler determined that the truck building was best left to its Dodge division, so the Comanche slowly faded into the background; making way for its reinvention under the name Dodge Dakota, with no considerable fanfaire.

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The world would have to wait an antagonizing long 25 years and counting for a new pickup from Jeep. And from all visually-hindered appearances it might be one that’s really worth waiting for. Besides, we do actually get a brand new Wrangler to tide us over, in the meantime. But really, who are we kidding? OlllllllO

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September 2017 Monthly Update

Elite Fast Track Mounting System

Have the ability to change up the look of your Jeep with our new Elite Fast Track Mounting System. Designed to hold many different configurations for your A-pillar lights to shine. Constructed of high-quality 6061 T6 aluminum, the Elite Fast Track 50-inch LED Light Bar is extremely lightweight but impressively strong, able to withstand the grueling conditions Jeeps are prone to endure. The light bar works with most straight 50-inch LED light bars, including 15209.06, as well as Rigid brand 50-inch curved light bars. It incorporates an aerodynamic design and a durable black textured powder coat finish that gives great protection from the elements, while sturdy steel brackets and Grade 8 mounting hardware insure years of dependable service- all backed by our 5-year limited warranty.

Part Number Description Price
11232.52 Elite Fast Track Mounting System, 50″ Bar, 07-17 Jeep Wrangler JK $266.99
11232.53 Fast Track 50″ Light Bar Kit, 07-17 Jeep Wrangler JK $466.99

 

C3 Tailgate Cover

A versatile Jeep ® deserves versatile accessories and that’s the reason we designed the Rugged Ridge C3 line of cargo area protection products. The C3 Tailgate Cover is the perfect complement to the Rear Cargo Cover or as a simple and effective way to make the most of your Wrangler JK’s tailgate. Constructed from a durable weather-resistant 900 denier weave PVC material that is UV protected, the C3 Tailgate Cover protects the interior from scratches and scuffs while adding valuable storage space for tools, recovery gear or those crucial fluids that always tumble around in the back. Each C3 Tailgate Cover mounts securely with the included hook and loop fasteners so the install is quick and easy and allows for simple removal.
An integrated mesh screen aids with air flow through the cover to the factory vent grille.
 
Part Number Description Price
13260.09 C3 Tailgate Cover, 07-17 Jeep Wrangler JK $66.99

Tips for Tackling that ‘Road Less-Travelled’

1Over the past decade of daily-driving a Jeep as my primary means of transportation, a few simple truths have become evident to me. First of all and simply put, Jeeps are cars for people who truly cherish driving. Even in stock form, Jeeps are fairly crude, utilitarian vehicles that are made to go just about anywhere you desire; therefore, their mannerisms when they are on the paved roadways are always a little less-than-perfect. This attribute, although unforgivable to some, suits me perfectly.

Secondly, Jeeps have made giant strides in proving that they may quite possibly be one of the worst commuter vehicles ever. While this seems somewhat harsh, the truth is that, while the shortest distance between two points is always a straight line, Jeeps don’t seem to be engineered using the same basic principles of geometry. Basically, if it should take 1 hour to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’, a Jeep will normally take anywhere from 10 to 50% longer to arrive than the calculated average. A Jeep driver tends to strictly abide by the age-old adage “Goin’ around your @$$ to get to your elbow”, accessing point ‘B’ via point ‘M’ or possibly even point lowercase ‘k’. While the science to support this principle has not been totally documented, it is true that fuel economy of the average Jeep owner is 10 to 50% lower than other vehicles on the road. Ironic? You decide.

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Thirdly, and this may surprise some of you like it did me- not ALL Jeep owners take their rugged rides off-road. While this was hard for me to digest at first, I came to realize that it makes total sense. For comparisons sake, everybody with a set of clubs in the trunk doesn’t necessarily know how to play golf well, if at all. I’m reminded of a lady who used to sing in the church choir when I was a young pre-teen. Despite the silky robe and the open songbook in her hands, she had no trace of any ability to sing. Unfortunately, this was a truth that was unknown to her and one that never kept her from engaging in blaring solos capable of frightening infants and startling the elderly. Unlike a tone-deaf soprano, a Jeep owner who has never experienced the joys of driving off-road is perfectly poised to make it happen. They already have all the capability they will need to make it happen at their disposal. The hard part is done.

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While the thought of venturing off-road in a brand-spanking new Wrangler JK is harrowing to many, the truth is that the Jeep was made to be taken off-road- they’re given that ‘Trail Rated’ badge on the fender for a reason. To keep it confined to pavement is depriving it of its purpose. Your inalienable right to take your Jeep out for a day filled with uncharted adventure is inherent with Jeep ownership and, with any luck, a thorough carwash will make it seem like it never even happened. I personally suggest you drive around with the mud decorations for at least a few days. It’s sort of a Jeepers badge of honor. Wear it proudly!

So, how do you get started with finding that road less travelled and making sure it’s one that suits your vehicle, your own individual skill and confidence level? I recommend anyone who drives a Jeep involve themselves in a local Jeepers club in their particular area. You can find many varieties of them on Facebook, as well as other social media venues, and they can prove to be a valuable source of information and support. The Jeep community is a strong network of people who share very similar interests although they come from a diverse range of backgrounds. I have gone “wheeling” with complete strangers on numerous occasions and have retained continuing friendships from each and every one of those interactions. You will more than likely find like-minded people near you that would love to coordinate a local trail ride or even a weekend road trip to a location close by.

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Another valuable source for locating prospective locations for you to pursue that less-travelled road would be the trusty internet. There are many sites dedicated to the off-roading hobby that can be a wealth of information and knowledge for you to access, some of which even have mobile apps that you can access while on the trail:

www.americantrails.org

www.offroadtrailguide.com

  www.where2wheel.com

5Once you have determined the “where”, “when” and “with who”, you will want to plan what things you will need to take with you. The first rule of thumb for a successful & enjoyable off-roading excursion is one shared with every teenage horror film you have ever seen. Don’t ever go alone!! (and maybe take a flashlight). Seriously, the essentials for your ultimate preparedness on the trail will vary greatly based on the types of off-roading you will be doing. For the beginner who is participating in a nice, easy trail ride, you want to make sure you have a properly inflated spare tire, a functioning jack and maybe a jug of water, just in case. A GPS can be a lifesaver although the uncomfortable total absence of roads on the display can seem alarming at times. Just remember, if it was an easy place to get to, everyone would already have been there and eliminated the reasons to go. It’s always a great idea to have a set of simple hand tools on-hand but the mechanical aptitude of the wheeler would be the determining factor between useful and useless. For that reason, a fully charged cellphone is to be considered crucial as well. Heck, it’s the Swiss army knife of this generation. There are apps to keep you from getting lost and games to entertain you when you do.

For those who drive modified Jeeps or have graduated to more challenging trails, ones that involve scaling rocks or maneuvering through mud, the list of crucial cargo grows accordingly. While the luxury of on-board compressed air is nice, it is certainly not a requirement. A hi-lift jack, a winch, a tire repair kit, a collection of basic recovery gear components comprised of straps, gloves, shackles and digging implements, a stockpile of damage-prone replacement parts like u-joints, axle shafts, drive shafts, ball joints, tie rod ends and the tools necessary to replace them on the trail as well as a hodgepodge of all the critical fluids needed to keep the engine running, the transmission shifting and the brakes stopping are all deemed as precious payload. While this seems like a nightmare checklist of necessary gear, the truth is that your trail kit can be developed and assembled over a long period of time as the experience level of your driving develops. Don’t be the guy who dresses like a big league catcher in the stands based on a slight chance of his fielding a foul ball. Take only what is practical in terms of making repairs on the trail. You may never need any of it but the one time you do, the overall expense will seem minimal in the grand scheme of things. To have it and not need it is the desired objective.

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So…Get out there, find that road less travelled and see where it takes you; always remembering to leave the trail just like you found it. After all, life is too short to just sit at home and Jeeps were meant to be taken off-road. You just might find out that those golf clubs look better in the garage anyway. OlllllllO

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One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure (Some Assembly Required)

1At the close of World War II, the War Department was stricken with an overwhelming problem – the conundrum of what to do with the untold thousands of military vehicles now that they had outlived their sole purpose. While many of the Willys MB and Ford GPW personnel transport units were merely abandoned in whatever foreign land they happened to be stationed in at the close of the war, many others were loaded onto ships, wheeled onto aircraft carriers and shipped home at great expense; returned stateside to a U.S. populace that had no real need for them and was largely preoccupied with resuming the normality of a post-war lifestyle free of such concerns.

World War II had not been considerate, in any way, to our European allies in France. A long and drawn-out conflict with Nazi Germany had left their nation’s infrastructure in a smoldering shambles and their military in dire need of massive reparation. As part of an unprecedented post-combat surplus sale, France agreed to purchase some 22,000 MB & GPW trucks from the U.S. government. While this deal likely qualified as a Lend/Lease transaction, the condition of the vehicles involved in the sale made it more a cross between a scratch-and-dent sale and an outright scrap liquidation, with only about half of the Jeeps being in usable condition. Jeeps that were damaged to the extent that a new frame was required were given a brand new frame thus removing their original Willys and Ford identifying markings and allowing them to begin life renewed as a Hotchkiss M201.

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The weighty task of converting such mechanical heaps into useable Jeeps began in 1946 and continued steadily for the next decade in a facility on the outskirts of Paris. Any car that was beyond repair was systematically dismantled to harvest any parts for use on other builds, while many of the chassis were upgraded to 12 volt electrical systems. With the extensive build processes being overseen by Hotchkiss, a French automobile and arms manufacturer, they began to develop a fairly thorough knowledge of the vehicles basic systems; leading to Hotchkiss becoming licensed by Willys to manufacture an entirely new Jeep, on a new frame, under the same Hotchkiss M201 badge beginning in the mid-1950’s. While these production models, built under the guise of Willys-Overland France (WOF), were intended for a largely civilian market, they failed to ever find an adequate foothold outside of the military. Nonetheless, they became a thread in the fabric of French post-war culture, affectionately referred to as ‘La Jeep’.

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The new civilian versions of ‘La Jeep’, referred to as the JH-101 from 1954 to 1960 and later as the JH-102 beginning in 1960, were based on the Willys CJ-3B and were subtly different from their Willys MB predecessors. For starters, the electrical systems were upgraded to a 24 volt platform with dual batteries to meet the NATO requirements of the day. Visually, the windshield frame of the production M201 had two wiper arms mounted from the above the windshield and featured a steel loop that straddled the wiper pivots to protect them when the windshield was lowered. The otherwise familiar dash cluster was accentuated by a round speedometer that read in kilometers per hour rather than miles; a feature possibly signifying the very first time in history that anyone was able to say they did 100 in a Jeep. Hotchkiss gradually began to address the Willys shortcomings with changes in their design, some proving to be beneficial while others were arguably steps in the wrong direction. Heavier leaf springs, waterproof ignition systems, updated carburetors and eventually even a diesel fuel engine found their way into the design. While those revisions that proved to be favorable became the new standard for future production, others that were less than advantageous fell by the wayside. Such is the case with the 55 horsepower Indenor diesel engine which, despite being a Peugeot power plant, reportedly had the same acceleration qualities as a garden snail, or ‘escargot’ as the French would refer to them on the menus in their finer restaurants.

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What started out as little more than a collection of old, used-up, hand-me-down Jeeps that were, by many accounts, ready for the landfill ended up serving the nation of France quite well. Many of the later production M102’s were used in military service up until the 1980’s. The decades following World War II were subsequently filled with economic growth and industrial advancements that once again had France positioned to maintain profitability for years to come. And to think, they owed a lot of their success to some old Jeeps. OlllllllO

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Finding the Meaning in Jeeps Seven Slot Grille

1When you come to the realization that we have an unmeasurable amount of information nowadays, right at our fingertips, it’s hard to feel anything short of amazed. The fact that I can drive my Jeep off in some random direction, as if I have a clue where I’m going, until I am hopelessly lost (as I am prone to do); I can pull over to the side of the road and my smartphone will tell me precisely where I am, advise me on how to get back home and tell me where the closest place to get some Kung Pow Chicken might be. It’s enough to baffle those of us old enough to remember having to drive to the library to gather information. With today’s technology so advanced, I’m sure it’s nothing but a simple oversight that, despite the past 50 years, absolutely no technological advancements have been made in the field of school glue; it doesn’t matter how much or how little of it you use, it’s still a sloppy mess the following day. Nor have the fine folks who manufacture it found any way to make it taste good. Go figure…

While doing some Jeep related research on the internet, I found an interesting article that was expounding on the origin of the iconic seven slotted Jeep grille. While I didn’t count the source as possessing any trace of actual credibility, I found it amusing that they claimed, so boldly, that the seven grille slots stood for the seven separate divisions of FCA Inc. – Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram, Mopar, SRT and Fiat. While the symbolism found in the concept that the seven grille bars represent the seven separate pillars on which the company is built seems honorable, I believe the authentic truth is likely more deeply-rooted in history than just a simple marketing scheme; a scheme that reeks of being little more than an afterthought dreamed up in some stuffy boardroom..

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It’s important to note the fact that the very first Jeeps didn’t even use a seven slot grille. The original war prototypes, as well as the actual early-production model Willys MB’s and Ford GPW’s that followed, used heavy grilles with a multitude of welded steel slats that were visually better-suited for grilling burgers over a campfire. It was not until later in 1942 that Ford Motor Company invoked some of their manufacturing expertise into the development of a lightweight stamped-steel grille assembly bearing nine vertical slots; a grille that, with one glimpse, is undoubtedly the inspiration for every Jeep grille to follow. It’s in the DNA. You can’t deny it…

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It was not until the release of the first widely available civilian Jeep, the 1945 Willys CJ-2A, that the grille was reduced to the prominent seven slot design that it retains today and has become so well-known for. So, why did Willys choose to use seven slots? Obviously, Ford had tooled up to produce the 9 slot fascia so that numerical design option was off the table. Respectable sources lend heavily in support of the notion that the Jeep was the first vehicle to have been deployed to serve on the soil of all seven continents during its tour of duty in the course of World War II. Having served in seven different theaters of war around the globe certainly deserves a high level of acclaim, or maybe a vertical bar for each? Just as a soldier might return home from his or her military service proudly displaying the medals that declare his bravery and accomplishments, the Jeep would return stateside, to the home it left behind, in the form of a civilian vehicle; always defiantly proud of the places it had been and the triumphs it had achieved. It had changed; it had adapted to its new lifestyle and yet it was fundamentally the same. An automotive model of resiliency.

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At this point is where I take a slight personal liberty in my beliefs in that the civilian Jeep grille was reduced by two slats to signify their sacrifice given in World War II. Of all the thousands of Jeeps that were produced in the early 40’s to bolster the war effort, a majority of them essentially gave the automotive equivalent of their “lives” for the cause. They were stockpiled and often liquidated, being sold off for scrap for pennies on the dollar and even pushed off piers, flight decks and jetties into the dark, murky depths of the ocean. One particular dumping ground in the South Western Pacific, known as “Million Dollar Point”, boasts virtual mountains of Jeeps, tanks and various other breeds of heavy equipment, all squandered away to a paupers burial, rather than incur the colossal expense of shipping them home. General George S. Patton may have explained such a blatantly frivolous exit strategy best when he said “Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men”. I firmly adhere to the thought that the world would be a lot cooler place to be if we had more of these old war era Jeeps around to look at, drive & enjoy. Certainly they don’t deserve to be as rare as they have become.

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Due to some lax business practices in the trademark office at Chrysler, AM general was able to acquire a trademark for the seven slot grille design in 1996 and later applied it to their Hummer H1 and H2 vehicles, much to the chagrin of Daimler-Chrysler. While the Hummer nameplate has a celebrated military past all it’s own, it would be hard to place it in the same ranks as our storied Jeep. Just as wearing a labcoat does not make you a doctor and owning a smartphone doesn’t make you…well…smart; having a 7 slot grille does not, in any way, make you a Jeep. In fact, dressing like a soldier and prancing around when you are, indeed, NOT a soldier likely suggests your participation in the cast of some off-Broadway musical. The real Jeeps have no such reason to pretend. OlllllllO

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